The Phantom Joint Venture – Part Three

CX and Gamma – Separated at Birth or Perfect Strangers?

The Pininfarina 1800 Aerodynamica prototype from 1967: its styling and packaging influenced 1970s Citroëns and Lancias. Credit: photo-voiture.motorlegend

In the third and final part of this series, we examine whether the CX and the Gamma were mechanically and technologically related at any point in their histories, and what – if any – politics, corporate or otherwise, affected their development paths.

Both the CX and the Gamma sported raked, low-profile, two-box, four-door, front-wheel drive fastback sedan designs with a Kamm tail, which, however, is not a hatchback. Someone with only a passing interest in cars could easily think these cars emerged from the same original collaborative project. However, both designs were heavily influenced by the 1967 Pininfarina 1800 Aerodynamica[22][23] prototype, which was proposed as a putative replacement for British Motor Corporation’s 1800/2200 Landcrabs.

The development timelines of the CX and the Gamma don’t match that well. As Citroënët informs us, Robert Opron’s team started design work on Projet L, the eventual CX, “[at] the end of the sixties, a few months prior to the launch of the SM and GS[22].” Τhe SM was shown to the public in March 1970, at the Geneva Motor Show, while the GS was launched on 24 August 1970. This means that Citroën started developing the CX, which was to continue the design theme of the GS (itself similar to Pininfarina’s smaller Aerodynamica concept, the 1100), in the last months of 1969.

Unless peculiarities of the project at hand or individual commitments dictate otherwise, it makes sense for two partners who collaborate for the development of an entirely new product to begin work at the same time. This holds true in the automotive industry as well. Even if Lancia was considered as a partner for Citroën, it couldn’t possibly join in at that time. In the beginning of 1970, after Lancia was put under Fiat’s umbrella, Camuffo started developing the Fulvia’s successor, the unfairly maligned Beta[24]. Still in recovery mode after what Car Magazine reviewer and Lancia enthusiast Philippe de Barsy described as a “disastrous Pesenti-Fessia regime[24],” the Turinese firm was only really capable of running one new car development project at a time.

So, Citroën spent the entire period from late 1969 to 1974 working on the CX, while Lancia developed the Beta (another car following the Pininfarina 1800 Aerodynamica’s template) in what seems like a record time: 1970-1972. The CX and the Beta, though, were not only poles apart in mechanical design, but were also positioned in different market segments, demonstrating that similarities in body style are not evidence of shared underpinnings. After the Beta was launched in 1972[16], development work on the Gamma (Tipo 830) began, and the car was eventually launched in 1976. That’s a four-year gestation period, which is par for the course.

What killed Lancia’s hydropneumatic experimentation? The unravelling of PARDEVI or de Gaulle’s “non”?

Before we move any further, I’ll quote Robinson’s narration again: “Three prototypes were built, using Citroen suspension adapted to the Lancia floorpan. The irresistible Lancia inclination to be different led to the birth of a new water-cooled flat-four engine of either 2.0 or 2.4-litres. Camuffo still maintained that this engine layout brings a lower centre of gravity and permits a lower bonnet line. Then, when it seemed the Fiat-Citroen deal would come off, the merger was cancelled, some say because French President, Charles De Gaulle, opposed the use of French technology in an Italian car[5].” The abandonment of these prototypes prompted Camuffo to say “[they] lost a year[5].”

Honestly, and this is the industrial engineer in me speaking, if I were Camuffo, I’d have vetoed this idea myself, even if I weren’t in a position where I could foresee the end of PARDEVI. It simply wouldn’t make much sense for Lancia to try and adapt another manufacturer’s suspension technology to its own floorpans. After all, they already had the Beta’s acclaimed suspension layout ready to adapt to a new floorpan.

Although some say[5] otherwise, de Gaulle couldn’t possibly have vetoed this Citroën-Lancia collaboration; development work on the Gamma started in 1972, when he was a bit too busy pining for the fjords. Besides, as we already know, his 1968 veto didn’t stop Citroën’s acquisition by Fiat from happening. So, who could have axed those three hydropneumatically-sprung prototypes, a mere year after R&D work had started on them? Only Fiat’s management could, and the most obvious reason for such a decision would be the fallout from the unravelling of the PARDEVI accord in 1973[14].

Indeed, as Fiat sold its share back to Michelin, it most likely found it unwise to continue work on any new car project that would be tied to Citroën and its intellectual property: Fiat would have to start paying licensing fees to Citroën. So, the most plausible explanation is that these prototypes were built in 1972 and scrapped in 1973, when the PARDEVI accord finally fell through. I can very easily imagine Agnelli phoning Camuffo and telling him ‘our deal with Citroën’s off, so stop any work that’s based on their stuff, and start over.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if Fiat’s top brass felt some animosity towards their colleagues at Citroën for shelving the Fiat 127-based Projet Y[17][18].

Honestly though, from the viewpoint of an industrial engineer, it makes sense for Beta and Gamma to share the same successful suspension layout – much more than it’d make for the Gamma to be built on somebody else’s platform, especially one whose use would now require licensing fees. The same, naturally, applies to Citroën.

So close, yet so far away

Now, let’s get to the cars in their final forms. Stylistically, they have a common ancestor, as an evolutionary biologist would say. Mechanically, they’re entirely different. First of all, the design brief for Projet L (the CX) called for “the ability to fit the Maserati V6 from the SM and a Wankel trirotor[21];” these engines were to be longitudinally mounted, behind the front axle in a MF (front-mid-engine, front-wheel-drive) layout – as was the case with the SM and the DS. Unfortunately, the 1973 Oil Crisis killed the Citroën-NSU Comotor[13] JV, so the CX wouldn’t get a Wankel engine.

A fascinating and intriguing twist in the story of the CX’s development and Citroën’s and Fiat’s relationship was brought by our keen-eyed commenter Bob, who mentioned (citing Michael Buurma’s book on the CX, which I plan to order very soon) a 1971 Projet L prototype that was powered by a water-cooled flat-four developed from the Lancia Flavia’s engine. This engine, which was ultimately rejected, had a capacity of 1,654 cc and a power output of 95 HP. Being mounted ahead of the front wheels, it pushed the car’s centre of gravity too far forward, adversely affecting its handling.

One could also say that, in light of the dissolution of the PARDEVI accord, its rejection was prudent; post-PARDEVI, Citroën would have to pay licensing fees to Fiat if they were to use any engine from the Fiat-Lancia stable. Still, this was a rather early prototype, so I wonder if this factor crossed anyone’s mind. At any rate, the existence of this prototype raises a few questions. Citroën wanted to equip what would become the CX with Wankel engines and the Maserati-designed V6. Before this ambition came to nought, why would they bother to build a prototype that was powered by a Lancia flat-four? Were they actually considering this engine? Or were they merely testing it for evaluation purposes?

Is this a Lancia flat-four under the bonnet of this Projet L prototype from 1971 (left)? It may very well be (right). Credits: Citroënët.org.uk (left) / CurbsideClassic (right)

On the other hand, the Gamma, which was always meant to be the Flavia’s successor rather than the Flaminia’s, had a flat-four (developed from that of the Flavia) driving the front wheels. Following the Flavia’s example, it was mounted longitudinally in front of the front axle.

No V6 For You!

So, due to the Oil Crisis, one of the originally intended engine options (the Comotor Wankel) was ruled out. The Maserati V6 was to follow suit in 1975. Surprisingly, this engine option was ruled out by Peugeot[25], although Maserati’s engineers demonstrated in the spring of 1975 that the CX could be easily fitted with this engine. Clearly, the suits in Sochaux wanted to get rid of Maserati and everything that came with it. To be honest, and putting financial considerations aside, I can’t blame Peugeot for having misgivings about Maserati’s V6. In its earlier forms, it was known for being unreliable and costly to maintain. Later on, it was merely costly to maintain. I can also understand them for not wanting to pay licensing fees to Maserati; after all, they had the PRV (Peugeot-Renault-Volvo) unit.

But the CX was never given even that. One can only wonder if this was an attempt by Peugeot to prevent the CX from upstaging their own flagship, the 604. Whatever the case, this meant that the CX’s original design brief was thrown in the dustbin and the CX never became what its designers had envisioned. As a result, the CX would have to make do with the engine it started its career with, which was the only option that remained available: the somewhat updated DS engine, mounted transversely rather than longitudinally.

Was Peugeot’s veto of the CX getting a V6, thus tearing its original design brief to shreds, an attempt to protect its own flagship? Credit:  blog-moteur

Vital Statistics

A look at the two cars’ dimensions, especially the internal ones, reveals much about the lack of any meaningful connection between the two projects. The Gamma was dimensionally pegged (more or less) to the Flavia/2000, which it replaced. The Gamma Berlina’s dimensions were as follows, with the 2000 Berlina’s in parentheses:

    • Length: 4.580 m (4.620 m)
    • Width: 1.730 m (1.610 m)
    • Height: 1.410 m (1.460 m)
    • Wheelbase: 2.670 m (2.650 m)
    • Track (Front/Rear): 1.450/1.440 m (1.330/1.290 m)
Credit: Blueprints for 3D modeling (drawingdatabase.com)

On the other hand, the CX’s dimensions were as follows:

    • Length: 4.657 m (4,907 m for the Prestige version)
    • Width: 1.770 m
    • Height: 1.360 m
    • Wheelbase: 2.845 m (3.095 m for the Prestige version)
    • Track (Front/Rear): 1.471/1.359 m
Credit: Citroënët.org.uk

Besides the obvious differences in their dimensions, they also differed in their suspension layouts, and this provides further evidence that these cars were entirely unrelated projects. Had they been the result of a collaborative project, at least their suspension layouts would have been the same, perhaps with different methods of absorbing road bumps and ruts (coil springs in one car, hydropneumatic spheres in the other). Two obvious examples of this are the Rover 200 and the Honda Concerto, and the Peugeot 406 and the Citroën Xantia. So, the CX’s front suspension uses transverse arms (upper and lower) and an anti-roll bar, while at the rear it has trailing arms and an anti-roll bar.

The Citroën CX’s front (left side) and rear (right side) suspensions. Credit: Citroënët.org.uk

On the other hand, the Gamma carries over the Beta’s successful suspension architecture, with struts and an anti-roll bar at the front, mounted on a subframe for refinement, and Camuffo’s much-copied “Bracci Longitudinali Guidati” (essentially transverse arms at the bottom, located via trailing arms and an anti-roll bar) at the rear; its rear suspension layout is not a million miles away from that of the Fiat 130. Of course, conventional telescopic dampers with coil springs were used all around.

The Gamma’s front subframe, complete with engine and gearbox – front and rear views. The McPherson set-up is visible. Credit: Gamma Consortium

The two cars were also markedly different in their body structures: whereas the Gamma had a typical modern unibody design, the CX added a separate chassis-like subframe beneath the main body, onto which the front and rear subframes were mounted.

Contrary to what had by then become standard practice, the Citroën CX used a separate ‘chassis’ on which the front and rear subframes were mounted. Image: lacitroencx

Conclusion

After all this, we can easily and safely reach several conclusions regarding the development sagas of the CX and the Gamma. Let’s start with the mechanical aspect: there is evidence that Lancia explored the possibility of using Citroën’s hydropneumatic suspensions on the Flavia’s successor, but this effort was abandoned quickly; most likely in 1973, in the wake of the PARDEVI accord’s dissolution.

The most plausible explanations for this are Fiat’s desire to avoid paying licensing fees to Citroën and an effort to achieve some sort of economies of scale by sharing a common suspension layout with the Beta. Also, even when Lancia’s engineers were working on a hydropneumatically-sprung prototype, they used a modified Lancia floorpan as a starting point, which was not shared with Citroën.

It’s also been established that, around 1971, Citroën experimented with what seems to be a downsized water-cooled flat-four engine derived from the Flavia’s, but this came to nought. With the Oil Crisis killing their ambition to equip the CX with a Wankel engine, and with the PARDEVI accord failing, the use of Fiat-Lancia engines would require licensing fees, which rendered them less attractive. As things turned out, the Gamma and the CX, two cars that were already developed separately and independently of each other, ended up – quite unsurprisingly – being entirely different in just about everything: drivetrain layout and type, in body structure, and in suspension architecture.

Were politics involved in the two cars’ development? Corporate politics, yes; as the PARDEVI deal came close to its dissolution, so did the collaboration between Citroën and Fiat. It also seems the corporate cultures and technological differences of the two firms played a major part. Additionally, Citroën’s new owners, Peugeot, stepped in to put the kibosh on the original plan for the CX to be equipped with a V6 engine (Maserati or PRV), completing its derailment from what was envisioned under Bercot. As anyone can understand, the decisions that affected these two projects were not dictated by either the Italian or the French government, but by the apex predators of the two brands’ respective corporate food chains.

And now, to get back to de Gaulle’s fabled ‘non’. The time has come to put it in its correct historical context once and for all. He objected to Fiat’s initial bid to acquire Citroën in 1968. His objection, however, didn’t prevent the deal from going forward when Pompidou succeeded him. Furthermore, his reasoning, which reflected his concern for France’s independent presence in the car manufacturing sector, and for the protection of French car manufacturing jobs, was far more nuanced than the majority of car publications would have you believe. That said, I must admit that, despite its lack of veracity, the Gaullic ‘non’ makes an exciting story – so, it’s unlikely it’ll ever go away.

Sources, quotations, and acknowledgements: See Part One.

Author: Konstantinos Tzoannopoulos

Industrial engineer. Disgruntled lover of Italian cars. Virtual worlds dilettante.

33 thoughts on “The Phantom Joint Venture – Part Three”

  1. I suspect that the motivation to test the Flavia’s engine was extrapolate possible development of the GS’ engine. As by this time they are doubtlessly aware of the Ro80’s problems, that experiement smells to me more of expedience, if not desperation than of an earnest desire to share technology. The GS was already tooled up and configured to use a flat four, but it was wholly unsuitable for the CX, and IMO, the high levels of noise and vibration it transmitted to the cabin made it not even worthy of the GS.

  2. A fascinating story and excellent analysis, thank you Konstantinos. I had no idea that the CX actually had a separate chassis. That alone is worthy of further investigation!

    1. No mechanical parts of the CX were directly mounted to the bodywork, they were all hung from the separate chassis to which the body was attached by eight (first) or ten (later) rubber elements.

      The body could be lifted off this frame and after fitting a stiffening rod from the front suspension carrier to the rear transverse tube the chassis could be rolled around on its own – without that rod it would bend in the middle.
      This alone makes it impossible that CX and Gamma were developed together because this is a completely different bodywork concept and design as the standard unibody of the Gamma. The separate frame had great NVH advantages and it was necessary to keep the CX’ suspension in geometry at all time because the DIRAVI only worked if and when everything was precisely adjusted. That’s why the CX steering can be and has to be adjusted in every conceivable direction including the position of the rack on the suspension carrier for which there is a number of special tools. Otherwise DIRAVI never will keep the car in a straight line and there’s not much that’s more annoying than driving a CX that’s permanently pulling to one side.

    2. Here’s a picture of a CX body getting lifted off the chassis

      In the late Seventies I helped someone doing that job on a CX Break which he converted from 2000 fuel engine to 2200D with the phenomenal power of 66 diesel PS in a break with 700 kgs of payload…
      It was pretty straightforward and not that much more effort than taking the engine out off some cars.
      We were warned by our local Citroen dealer that the chassis should not be wheeled around without the stiffening rod which he lent us over the weekend and which made the whole thing astonishingly stiff and manoevrable.

    3. It’s better to think of it not as a separate chassis (in the old-fashioned sense of chassis supporting a non-structural body, as on a truck), but rather as a common subframe in lieu of separate front and rear subframes.

  3. Fiat was mightily relieved to get rid of the 2000.
    My 2000ie was made almost up to Rolls standards, and at huge cost.
    Then Fiat could get on with its cheap, rough motors for the masses — for whom it was often their first new car.

  4. I’m not sold on the notion of Projet L prototype having a Lancia engine. The water-cooled flat-four is described as having a capacity of 1654cc, and my thought is that it is a GS engine with the bore increased to 89.5mm.

    The hint is ‘water-cooled’. This section drawing of a GSA engine explains how it could be achieved:

    Air-cooled engines have disproportionately large bore spacings to permit effective airflow and heat dispersion through fins between the cylinder bores. That GSA engine looks to have around 36mm of metal between the bores. Present day water-cooled engines rarely bother even with water passages between bores and have as little as 6mm of metal between cylinders; the notional 89.5mm bore of the Citroën engine would leave a generous 20mm or so.

    NSU used the same trick with the K70 engine, based on their 1000-1200c air-cooled in line fours, and originally intended to achieve 1500cc with water cooling. VW wanted 1600cc and got it easily, with the engine later enlarged again to 1807cc by a bore increase to 87mm. Other examples of finding more capacity through water cooling are the Porsche 911 flat-six, Honda 145, and numerous Japanese motorcycle engines.

    “…a 1971 Projet L prototype that was powered by a water-cooled flat-four developed from the Lancia Flavia’s engine. This engine, which was ultimately rejected, had a capacity of 1,654 cc and a power output of 95 HP. Being mounted ahead of the front wheels, it pushed the car’s centre of gravity too far forward, adversely affecting its handling.”

    This seems questionable given that the GS – a shorter and lighter car than Projet L – also had its flat-four mounted ahead of the front wheels. Placing it behind would have been an accessibility and packaging nightmare, also entailing an awkwardly long wheelbase, and noise and vibration issues.

    If you must have your longitudinal engine ahead of a front wheel drive transaxle, using a short configuration like a flat or V-four is the way to do it – the lever-arm principle applies, the longer the lever and the greater the mass, the more it becomes a problem. Yet Audi, Renault and others got away with long and heavy in-line engines ahead of the front axle line, probably through the triumph of development over mechanical principle.

    1. If you look at the engine compartment of the prototype and compare it to a Flavia iniezione engine you see parallels like the design of the intake runners with rubbers connectors to the identical looking plenum chamber. The ignition distributor is upright and at the same place at the left hand rear where it’s driven by the camshaft in the block – the GS had OHC and the distributor at the end of the cylinder head.

    2. I took some photos of the Projet L engine when it was on show at the NEC in 2009:

      Difficult to be conclusive about anything under these hoses and manifolds.

    3. And here’s another:

      Could that be a cam-belt cover to the left of the battery?

    4. These pics are much better than the low resolution ones normally shown.
      You can see a belt driven camshaft and the typical Citroen oil filler and something looking like a twin choke carb where I thought it had an air meter.

    5. Here’s some film of the engine running, which might help. It is a fascinating series – thank you.

    6. From about 03:51 you can see the single plunger hydraulic pump of the GS sitting on the crankcase (just where it is on that cengine) which could not have been fitted to a Flavia engine. That means there’s no DIRAVI on the car shown.

    7. I’m not particularly fluent in French, but I think the commenter says at about the 4:00 mark that the engine is a development from that of the GS (for what that’s worth). What a lovely film, by the way! I rather like the front of the Projet L with its narrow headlamps and the sophisticated little crease where the front wing meets the bumper. I’m less enamoured with the rear.

      I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series, Konstantinos, thank you very much!

      The whole PARDEVI situation with Citroën buying Maserati, Fiat buying part of Citroën, buying Lancia, selling part of Citroën, Citroën selling Maserati, Peugeot buying Citroën is just immensely complicated, never mind whatever the engineers got up to. No wonder, as you say, that a relatively simple story of an (apparently posthumous) “non” catches on.

      I would never have thought that the CX had a separate chassis, but it makes sense from an NVH standpoint, I suppose. Piquant that the Traction Avant was, by contrast, a pioneer in adopting a monocoque structure:

    8. The CX’ frame is different from a standard separate frame and more like interconnected subframes.
      The CX’ frame is not able to carry its own weight without that special tool to stiffen it out and if you wheel it around without that rod you can damage it irreversibly by bending the longintudinal rails. These rails are an inverted-U shape that’s very wide but very low in the flanks and serve more to keep the suspension carriers precisely aligned than to carry any weight – which is not a problem because the bodywork is a full unibody design anyway.
      The suspension carriers are very sturdy designs, particularly up front where suspension and drivetrain are attached to it and all forces are taken by the frame.

    9. Thanks for the clarification, Dave. So it’s not a chassis but a set of interconnected subframes. Still a remarkable solution. I’m not well versed on engineering, but I imagine this is a unique solution (although doubtlessly, since subframes are quite common, there are other cars which come close).

  5. Excellent series, Konstantinos. I learned a lot from these three articles.

  6. A fascinating and informative series indeed. I’d forgotten (if I ever knew) that the CX had a separate chassis but presumably that made it easier to create the extended six-wheeled CXs that were once used to get newspapers distributed at high speed.

    1. Tissier welded another rear subframe (or two) to the standard frame to create vehicles like this

  7. „Being mounted ahead of the front wheels, it pushed the car’s centre of gravity too far forward, adversely affecting its handling.”

    That is plain wrong.

    You are missing the main „Citroën“ factor. The weight out front doesn’t matter, at all. In fact, it’s very much part of the plan. Because: hydraulics.

    The CX is literally „Thor‘s hammer“ – no car, ever!, is better in keeping a straight line, even with strong side winds or breaking on difficult surfaces (no ABS needed, thank you!) or with a blown tire. Why? Because it makes the most of the combination of excellent aerodynamics, low center of gravity, noisy engine out of the way of the passengers – all thanks to the possibilities of the hydraulics. There is a very good and thorough explanation by some member of the German CX Club around. I see if I can find and translate it.

    I think it it is highly likely that possibilities were explored to share or couple development of the CX and the Gamma. Because Pardevi and why not.

    Clearly, this failed. The CX, as a car, is a holistic concept, which the Gamma – lovely as it is in its own right – is clearly not.

    1. The prototype with the flat-four engine was rejected; the writer of the CX book says it was rejected because it pushed the center of gravity too far forward and didn’t handle that well. Now, hydraulics or not, there’s no escaping the laws of Physics. The CX, as it was launched, avoided having its engine hanging too far out front. Still, it never got the engines its designers hoped.

    2. What I find a little curious about that statement is that the Gamma’s (considerably larger capacity, ergo heavier) engine was placed exactly in the position the Bureau d’Etudes engineers baulked at. Yet nobody criticised the Gamma’s handling – quite the contrary in fact – nor indeed its lineal descendant for that matter.

    3. The CX was one of the most front heavy cars with around 70 percent if its weight up front thanks to the cast irin lump of an engine sitting as far forward as possible.
      This indeed made it keep a straight line very stubbornly, particularly if you wanted to go around a tight bend in rain or on snow and when you tried to force it around the bend the short wheelbase versions had a tendency for snap oversteer typical for trailing arm rear suspensions.
      The ability to hold a straight line is the result partly of its weight distribution and mostly of the characteristics of DIRAVI that was specifically designed to keep the car in a straight direction.
      The Gamma has around 58 percent of its weight up front, largely because its engine is exceptionally light with just 135 kgs.

    4. For all its reliability issues would the lighter weight of the water-cooled flat-four Flavia later Gamma engine relative to the inline-4 CX engine have been enough to compensate for the centre of gravity being too far forward in the CX? Am assuming an enlarged GS engine would have been significantly lighter, more so if it was water-cooled.

      Fwiw seem to recall reading of a Gamma Turbo prototype or conversion that gave a similar output as the CX GTi Turbo, possibly also thinking of the 16-valve Gamma development.

  8. What further muddies the waters regarding Project L’s purported Lancia Flavia based 1654cc engine brought up in Michael Buurma’s book, would be Marc Stabèl’s book on the GS & GSA stating that at the end of the 70s Jean Dupin resumed research into a water-cooled boxer engine with a larger volume conceived to be a design for the ultimate GS engine displacing 1450cc.

    The water-cooled 1450cc Boxer was said to have been a significant improvement over the air-cooled GS engine in terms of efficiency, lower emission and better torque amongst other things. Yet it did not amount to anymore beyond an investigation before development was discontinued because of Peugeot’s preference for transversely-mounted inline engines.

    Beyond featuring curious displacements (for French tax reasons?), it is not clear if any relation exists between Project L’s 1654cc and the stillborn 1450cc GS water-cooled boxer engines.

    Fwiw it is said that enlargement of the air-cooled GS/GSA engines to around 1.4-1.6-litres were possible with overbore kits, although it is claimed Citroen was wary of doing the same due to cooling reasons. Cannot seem to uncover if there was any scope for increasing the stroke of the GS/GSA units above 65.5mm to something closer towards or beyond the 72mm stroke in the water-cooled Alfa Romeo Boxer.

    https://www.citroentuning.de/he_gs.php

    What seems more plausible rather than cooling reasons would be that like the Heuliez low cost Citroën SM project based on CX underbody below (that could have potentially received the PRV V6 in place of the Maserati V6), the CX replacing Projet E and many other projects delayed/killed as a result of the fuel crises from the early-70s, takeovers of Citroen and Chrysler Europe plus Peugeot’s own financial problems in the early-80s (that caused Peugeot/PSA to abandon their involvement in the FIRE motor project with Fiat), it was simply something Peugeot were unwilling to sanction.

  9. Somewhere in the midst of this is yet another good Citroën that never was.

    Projet L’s dimensions are reported as 4510mm long, 1660mm wide, and 1310mm high. Probably by some earnest soul at Aulnay museum or Techno Classica who didn’t dare to check the tracks and wheelbase.

    Projet L is a class smaller than the CX which is 147mm longer, 67mm wider, and 50mm higher. Was the GS Birotor co-developed with Projet L? Probably not, but it was a missed opportunity with a front end which is mechanically more CX than GS, and a front track dimension only 47mm narrower than the CX, giving the unexploited possibility of fitting a suitably sized conventional in line four.

    The notional mid-sized Citroen could have had the 1654cc flat four longitudinally, and the big Citroën four transversely as long as the front track was at least 1470mm wide – the 1645mm wide GS Birotor’s front track was 1427mm. Diesel would be a possibility, and I reckon that fla- four could be pushed so close to two litres as not to matter. Citroën could have had a car which filled the gap between the R16 and Peugeot 504, and later Renault 20, while not being so dauntingly huge as the CX

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